Night Hike in Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica

Red-eyed tree frog, night hike, Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, Osa Peninsula

 

That moment you stand five feet away from a giant crocodile while walking through a mangrove forest in the dark of night is the moment you learn a new kind of fear.  You stare into its beady, glowing eyes knowing it could be on you faster than you could even think about running away.

“That’s el jefe [Spanish for ‘the boss’],” our guide Adonis informed our group, comprised of four tourists and another guide.  “She is the grandmother of these waters and keeps the other crocodiles in line.”

Not exactly comforting words as I stood on a narrow trail – used by crocodiles and caimans to get from one pond to another – unable to move forward because the rest of the group had stopped to look at a frog, and unwilling to move backwards into total darkness all alone.  As softly as I could, not wanting to startle the giant, 40 year-old dinosaur made of muscle who was keeping a careful eye on me, I asked if the group could please move forward in order that I wouldn’t die.

“Don’t worry,” Adonis said, “these crocodiles know me.  They won’t hurt you as long as you’re with me.”  Yeah right.  As if the killing instincts of a prehistoric animal would be thwarted by his friendly demeanour.  Also, it was just a short while before that he asked us all to step back from the water as he waded in and, gently, grabbed a baby crocodile from its mother (the baby was returned to its mother shortly:).  Still, we all survived our two hour hike through this mini forest that comprised Adonis’ backyard.

 

Crocodile, caiman, night hike, Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, Osa Peninsula
I don’t know if this is a crocodile or caiman, but regardless, it has very sharp teeth.

 

This night hike in Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica, was organised by Mike Boston of Osa Aventura.  Mike is well known in Puerto Jiménez and can help you arrange any kind of eco tour.  While Mike did not lead this hike himself, he enlisted the help of two other guides in the area.  Marcelo speaks English and is a biologist specialising in reptiles and amphibians.  Adonis is a knowledgeable local whose favourite activity is to walk through the woods at night looking for animals.  Adonis has not only named all of the crocodiles and caimans in the area, he regularly walks these woods filled with poisonous and deadly animals– as he did the night of our hike – barefoot.

While the crocodiles and caimans were one of the highlights on our hike, we saw plenty of other animals as well.  There are numerous bugs and insects in the forest.  We saw spiders, centipedes, stingless bees, and leaf-cutter ants.  Supposedly, the fungus the ants cultivate is a direct descendant of the original fungus of the area.  The ants have a symbiotic relationship with fungus and, when one ant leaves to start a new colony, it takes a piece of the existing fungus with it.

 

Jesus Christ Lizard, night hike, Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, Osa Peninsula
Jesus Christ Lizard

 

We also came across numerous species of frogs, including the famous red-eyed tree frog – the mascot of Costa Rica.  Yet another highlight was when we crossed paths with a Jesus Christ Lizard.  I had only ever seen these on nature documentaries, and it was adorable watching this male lizard run on its hind legs.  I may have squealed a little bit when it ran into my leg.

If you only do one hike in Costa Rica, and you should definitely do more, I highly recommend a night hike with Osa Aventura.  We had a small, personalised tour with very knowledgeable guides who were happy to keep walking for as long as we wanted to.  You would think a tour such as this would be pricey, but the cost was only about $20 USD (plus a tip for the guides).

Note:  On the rare occasion there was any direct interaction with the wildlife, the guides conducted themselves ethically and respect for the animals and the environment was always the priority.

Looking for a place to stay in Puerto Jiménez?  Check out our review of Cabinas Jiménez.

 

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Crocodile, caiman, night hike, Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, Osa Peninsula

 

 

 

 

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24 Comment

  1. Is this not scary. I find it very scary. You are brave.

  2. It definitely got my heart pumping a couple of times:)

  3. I would love this hike! I like the tree frogs.

  4. I think I’d be scared when it was daylight out. I can’t imagine hiking this at night, you are brave! I can see the experience was one in a life time thought. Kudos!

  5. Costa Rica sounds so amazing! I had no idea crocodiles would be so small but so menacing! They look awesome and it’s much less expensive than I thought!

  6. Congrats for finishing the hike! 🙂 That’s very brave of you. I’m glad that this tour company has respect for the wildlife and the environment.

  7. I would have been so scared walking through the same trail as crocodiles even if Adonis said the crocodiles knew him! Maybe a crocodile was going to attack you but then they saw Adonis and thought, hang on, they are with him! Having said that Adonis does sound experienced and Osa Adventures sounds very organized. I saw those Jesus Christ lizards as well in Costa Rica, they truly are amazing, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

  8. Night hike in a narrow trail barefoot and see crocodiles, caimans, insects and bugs is such a unique experience. It reminds me of seeing crocodiles and insects during a night walk in Everglades – it was dark and it is a different feeling to not see them until you are very close. I was nervous to read that you are only few feet away from a corcodile but was relieved that they know your tour guide. He is so brave to hold up a lizard. I would be so scared.

  9. I was allowed to hold the baby crocodile as well (anyone in our group had the opportunity, but everyone else was scared). It was terrifying. Even at that size, you can feel how strong they are.

  10. Oh wow, I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to hold that, even though it is just a little guy. I would definitely want to go on the hike with a guide and not on my own, in case I encounter any unfamiliar creatures. $20 for the hike is a steal too!

  11. I would not recommend doing a night hike alone. Although the area we explored was quite small, we were disoriented very quickly. I don’t feel like I could have found my way around and out on my own. Especially not with the crocs and caimans.

  12. You got me hooked to your article till the very end! I don’t know what I would have done if the Jesus Christ lizard crawled up on my legs, I am terrified of geckos so wild lizards could give me heart attack! However Adonis sounds like a true bluel forest man!

  13. I’m just speechless!!! To be able to give names to crocs & snakes as if its a pet dog or cat is just unbelievable. To even think of handling a croc’s little one while the mother is beside sounds so scary yet so exciting. I have to go in this night hike esp with Adonis!!!

  14. Sounds like this was an amazing experience!

  15. This sounds so cool and an amazing experience! We literally just went on a night walk through the jungle in Borneo last night, saw so many creepy crawlies!

    1. This would be so incredible in Borneo. I would love to see an orangutan!

  16. While I think this would be an amazing tour I really don’t think I have the balls to do it! Your photos are fantastic. What an experience.

  17. I remember doing the night tour on the Amazon when we went looking for caymans. I couldn’t believe how the guides could spot their red beady eyes so far away. Costa Rica is sounding more and more to me like THE place to go. Sounds like you had a great time on this trip. Small tours are the way to go I think too.

    1. Absolutely go! I love Costa Rica more than anywhere else…so far…and it’s the only place my wife would seriously consider moving to.

  18. he took a baby croc from it’s mother?!?! that is the bravest/stupidest thing i have ever heard hahaha. seems like a cool way to spend a night though!

  19. I’m so keen to get to Costa Rica and this night hike sounds brilliant. I think my kids would love it too – how exciting that you saw crocs/caiman! I went on a night hike in Borneo and we unfortunately didn’t see anything quite as cool…

  20. The night hike sounds like such a great experience, but a little scary! I’d love to see the caiman and red eyed frog!

  21. Damn! That has to be really spooky.
    Night hike is to be fun but getting into wild whooo this is really having guts.
    But such a experience is worth having.
    Keep posting Cheers 🙂

  22. I would so love a night hike! Not sure when I will make it that way, but when I do I’ll keep this in mind. I always like to see local wildlife in their natural habitat.

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